The Blues to Love
The bright hues of Indigo have a vibrancy and texture like no other and now a museum in Ahmedabad is all set to pay homage to its versatility.
Blue, Cobalt, Teal, Sky, Azure, Ocean, lapis, Arctic, Aegean, Denim, Slate, Navy, Spruce, berry, Sapphire, Admiral – the many shades of blue including the ultramarine Indigo – one of the seven colours of the rainbow has a charm like no other.
Ode to Blue
The name Arvind Ltd. instantly triggers the word denim in your mind, well after all Arvind is today among the world’s largest producers of denim. So it was almost a natural corollary that the country’s first ever museum dedicated to Indigo would be from the house of Arvind. And I was lucky to get a sneak peek into the exhibits that will be part of the museum at Arvind Ltd.’s Alchemy, a special exhibition, ahead of the launch of its Arvind-Indigo Museum. The soon to be launched museum is to be the country’s single largest Indigo art-objects repository and the Arvind-Indigo Museum will be housed in a building within the company’s Naroda facility in Ahmedabad. This building is being specially resurrected by a French architect and has special significance to Arvind Chairman and MD, Sanjay Lalbhai, as it was here that the first meter of locally produced denim came from in the late 1980s. Currently installed at the expansive Kasturbhai Lalbhai museum, the exhibits are stellar examples of a creative confluence of minds that show how Indigo can manifest on materials beyond the clichéd textiles. So you have a display of weaves, furniture, paintings, sculptures and installations on a range of mediums like wood, steel, ceramics, rubber, canvas and paper that are an ode to the transformative properties of Indigo.
Several eminent artists and artisans from across the world have collaborated with Sanjay Lalbhai and his team to co-create stunning installations and contemporary art works and some of these will also be part of the new museum. Sanjay avers “we have made a list of all the arts and crafts of each state in India and are identifying the best artists for each of them as we want to work with them to express their art through indigo. This is the one dye that can keep the tradition yet be contemporary.” Some of the artists whose works are on display include Megha Todi, Aboubakar Fofana, Kavin Mehta, Vyom Mehta, Umang Hutheesing, Shola Carletti, G R Iranna, Manish Nai, Nalini Malani, Annie Morris, Gregor Hildebrandt, Alwar Balasubramanium, Bhagyashree Suthar, Manisha Parekh, Nibha Sikander, Pandit Khairnar, Sachin Tekade, Tanya Goel, Victoria Andrejeva, Meesha Holley, Amit Ambalal And Shihoko Fukumoto. Sanjay adds, “our intention is to highlight the immense potential of Indigo and display a range of possibilities for an Indigo lifestyle. Some of the artists have never worked with Indigo before, and, I believe, this will create an ecosystem that promotes creativity, art and put India on the global map.”
The fascination of Arvind with Indigo goes back to the time when they were challenged by the onslaught of power looms and instead of fading away like most units, they decided to go indigo by taking the the denim route. “The museum aims to extend the vocabulary of Indigo into spaces and possibilities never explored earlier and also revive and nurture traditional art forms and bring a contemporary interpretation of these with indigo, thereby benefiting the artisans and an entire ecosystem,” says Sanjay. With know-how to impart indigo on a variety of surfaces like metal, stone, wood and many more, Arvind Indigo Museum will not only push the boundaries of innovation with Indigo into newer areas and disciplines but also deliver social impact, in line with the core philosophy Arvind stands for. The idea of the museum is to also support farmers growing natural indigo and apart from farmers help craftsman, artists and artisans. “This is a unique opportunity for artists to express themselves through a completely different medium that will challenge them creatively. This project started with me and Vipul Mahadevia who also believed in the impossibility and things like imparting indigo on materials like aluminum. We have failed in several attempts but it is the passion and belief to try and never give up that has culminated in these installations.” So what’s next? “Well there could be an entire Indigo cuisine designed around the plant as it is edible where the menu could be from renowned chefs who could interpret Indigo in their own way,” chuckles Sanjay. Well, why not? The various renditions of Indigo across diverse materials is certainly a case in point and the future is certainly looking blue!
This story first appeared in Spice Route Magazine March 2019 issue here: